The human fascination with longevity dates back thousands of years, with philosophers like Plato and Aristotle pondering the mysteries of aging. In recent years, the number of centenarians, individuals who live past 100, has been steadily increasing. This growing demographic group has captured the curiosity of scientists who are eager to uncover the factors contributing to a long and healthy life. Unlocking the secrets of exceptional longevity is a complex endeavor that involves understanding the interplay between genetics and lifestyle throughout a person’s lifetime. In a groundbreaking study published in GeroScience, researchers have discovered valuable biomarkers in individuals who live past 90, shedding new light on the possibilities of extending both lifespan and healthspan.
Centenarians and nonagenarians (those in their 90s) have long been subjects of scientific study. By examining the lives of these remarkable individuals, researchers hope to gain insight into the aging process and identify strategies for prolonging life and maintaining optimal health in old age. Previous studies on centenarians have been relatively small-scale and focused on specific populations. However, the recent study conducted by a team of researchers stands out as the largest investigation of its kind, comparing biomarker profiles between long-lived individuals and their shorter-lived peers.
The study drew data from the Amoris cohort, which included health assessments of 44,000 Swedes aged 64 to 99. Over a span of up to 35 years, researchers followed the participants through Swedish register data. Among the participants, 2.7% – or 1,224 individuals – reached the milestone of living to 100 years old. Notably, the majority of centenarians (85%) were female. The study examined twelve blood-based biomarkers associated with inflammation, metabolism, liver and kidney function, as well as malnutrition and anemia. These biomarkers, previously linked to aging and mortality, included uric acid, glucose, cholesterol, alanine aminotransferase (Alat), aspartate aminotransferase (Asat), albumin, gamma-glutamyl transferase (GGT), alkaline phosphatase (Alp), lactate dehydrogenase (LD), creatinine, iron, and total iron-binding capacity (TIBC).
While there were no significant differences in median biomarker values between centenarians and non-centenarians, a pattern emerged. Individuals who reached 100 years of age consistently displayed lower levels of glucose, creatinine, and uric acid from their 60s onwards. What is particularly intriguing is that very few centenarians had extremely high or low values of these biomarkers, such as glucose levels above 6.5 or creatinine levels above 125. This suggests that maintaining a certain balance or range of these biomarkers throughout life may contribute to exceptional longevity.
Digging deeper into the data, researchers discovered that all but two biomarkers (Alat and albumin) showed a connection to the likelihood of becoming a centenarian. This association remained even after considering age, sex, and disease burden. Interestingly, individuals with lower levels of total cholesterol and iron had a decreased chance of reaching 100 years. On the other hand, higher levels of glucose, creatinine, uric acid, and markers for liver function were also associated with a reduced likelihood of becoming a centenarian.
While the absolute differences in biomarker values were relatively small, they do suggest a potential link between metabolic health, nutrition, and exceptional longevity. It should be noted that this study does not provide conclusive evidence on the specific lifestyle factors or genes responsible for these biomarker patterns. However, considering factors such as nutrition, alcohol intake, and monitoring kidney and liver health along with glucose and uric acid levels as one ages could be beneficial for overall health and potential longevity.
In the pursuit of unraveling the secrets of exceptional longevity, researchers have made significant strides in understanding the biomarker profiles of individuals who live past 90. While genetics and chance undoubtedly play a role, this study implies that lifestyle choices, particularly related to metabolic health and nutrition, can greatly influence one’s chances of becoming a centenarian. By identifying these valuable biomarkers and their association with longevity, scientists are paving the way for future interventions and strategies to increase both lifespan and healthspan. Ultimately, whether or not reaching an exceptional age is within our control, it is evident that taking care of our overall well-being throughout our lives can have a profound impact on our journey towards and beyond 100 years of age.